Karl already took some time to highlight just one of the many absurdities in Senator Josh Hawley’s “plan” to revamp the FTC by turning it into a sub-agency of the Justice Department, rather than an independent agency. First of all, the Justice Department is the law enforcement arm of the government, and the FTC is supposed to be engaged in protecting consumers from “unfair or deceptive acts” by businesses. It is a separate and different focus than straight law enforcement by the Justice Department.
But, even more telling is that at just about the same time as Hawley was making his pitch to dump the FTC’s current five commissioner structure, in favor of a single director working directly for the Attorney General, we find out that the current Attorney General, William Barr, has broken with decades of tradition that had made it clear that the Justice Department was an independent agency, separate from the White House. As was widely reported, Barr has made it clear that he will step in and protect the President on matters that concern the President. As such, the DOJ is no longer an independent law enforcement agency, but it is now the state police, doing the bidding of the President.
That should concern just about everyone — no matter which party you’re in. And the idea that the FTC should take sole orders from what is now a political office, including in investigating companies and potentially fining or breaking them up, is hugely problematic. You would think that Republicans, like Hawley, would recognize this. However, Hawley — who once pretended to be for smaller government and for “keeping government out of business” — has long shown his true colors as someone who simply loves to use the government to get his own interests in place. And if that means enabling his vendetta against a group of companies he doesn’t like, so be it.
We’ve had our concerns with both the DOJ and the FTC over the years, but putting the FTC into the Justice Department will make all of those concerns worse, not better. At a time when the Justice Department can no longer be considered an independent agency from the White House, it is especially concerning that someone would seek to shove the FTC into that setting.
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